Photography: John Johnson / @john.johno

Issue 114 of Bido Lito! is out now. Sign up as a member to get the issue delivered to your door.

Proximity has been a defining factor of the last year and a half. It’s been the measurement by which so much of our lives have been dictated.

In the physical sense, it is where most of us will have experienced the most telling change. The required distance and separation from one another has been a necessary but peculiar sensation that’s contracted and loosened over the course of the pandemic. It’s in this sense where a new appreciation of physical proximity has kept the large majority safe. Equally, it has drawn us into a lonesome cold.

Not only has an emphasis on proximity dictated our physical existence, it has been the underlying essence of our hopes, expectations and challenges. Just how close or far can anything be at one time? When the first lockdown arrived, many thoughts turned to how far off in the future a return to normality would be. News reports would elude to how close we were to developing a vaccine. When things took a turn for the worst for the third time, we were forced to consider how much further away ideas of progress now were.

Before now, proximity has been a relative physical and conceptual sensation. But in many ways, the pandemic has unified personal sensations of distance and closeness. In having a unified goal of beating Covid-19, we’ve all reached out together in hope and been jerked back in unison through the darkest moments.

This sense of things being in touching distance or pushed further away by setbacks have dictated so many mental states since March 2020. Even in my so-called distraction from the toughest parts of the pandemic, Liverpool FC has sought to show just how far away they are from their former selves – just how close they are to potentially making the best out of a dire situation.

There’s been a continual ebb and flow to so much of the last year, a concertina of positives and negatives that have never allowed us to settle. It’s been a sensation all the more cruel and tantalising as music has had to wait at the back of the line before granted its return. Always so close, but seemingly so far.

“Just how close to something can we actually be; a music scene, to an idea, a subculture, a movement?”

In a more conceptual sense, just how close to something can we actually be? How close can we be to a music scene, to an idea, a subculture, a movement? And how much of this relies on tangibility and shared physical space? The early stages of lockdown suggested physicality wasn’t a defining factor in how close we can be to something or someone. Many will have felt closer to the city, to certain communities, as physical separation injected an impetus to connect and be part of something – in whatever way possible. But come the final stretches of a long and arduous third lockdown, the belief that we can remain close to ourselves and what we stand for while being kept apart is frayed from fatigue. And so once again proximity comes to the fore with the promise of an end coming closer into sight.

So many of the stories in this issue display different appreciations of proximity. As Niloo Sharifi learns from Podge, making music is less about moving closer to an end goal and more an expression within a defined, immovable space purely of its moment. For The Coral, Cath Holland uncovers how Coral Island is a display of distant dreams with the potential to draw them closer through nostalgia and imagination. In a more direct sense, El Gray outlines just how close Liverpool is to losing a large proportion of its artist studios – those which form the foundations of the city’s visual cultural offer. In my own report from Liverpool’s hosting of aspects of the events research programme, we see a roadmap to normality growing ever shorter. Perhaps most importantly, we see people shedding the barriers of social distancing to re-establish a joyous close proximity with one another and live music. Even looking at the news and previews sections, you can sense there really isn’t that far to go before things are well and truly better.

Proximity has changed so much of what we feel and think over the course of the last 15 months. Everything now seems so much closer. An end, in whatever form it arrives in, is coming into sight.

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